It’s that time again: the chance to put yourself first and make realistic goals for the year ahead. While it seems like you can only focus on one aspect of your health at a time, that’s not the case. The following activities emphasize how your physical and mental health can work together toward betterment—as they should.
Most people find it difficult enough to get out of the cycle of overthinking—worrying about their future and regretting their past—let alone adding another mental health practice to the list; but there’s a lot to gain from incorporating mindfulness into your daily life. One way to be more mindful is through daily meditation.
Try it for yourself:
- Sit down in a quiet place. This will help bring a sense of calm to your mind and body.
- Take slow, deep breaths. Be fully aware of your body and your mind during this time.
- Be present. Acknowledge what thoughts are coming to you, and strive to keep your mind in the present moment. Practice this for ten to twenty minutes.
- Give your full attention. Don’t let yourself be distracted by things happening around you, by your phone, or by your ego. When engaging in conversation, be wholly present. Active listening requires effort, both verbally and nonverbally. Make eye contact, ask questions, and practice discernment.
It’s really that simple. Mindfulness is about bringing meaning to even the most basic tasks. People tend to practice it while doing the dishes, eating a meal, or going for a walk. Welcome mindfulness into your life—you’ll feel restoration enter your mind, body, and spirit, breath by calming breath.
It may not come as a surprise that mindfulness can increase mental clarity. It can eliminate brain fog as it increases your level of focus and attention. This can be especially useful during moments of emotional strife. Although it’s not a be-all and end-all fix for mental clarity, physical fitness can pick up where mindfulness leaves off.
Pilates and yoga are both low-impact workouts that focus on the mental as much as the physical, which is why incorporating them into your routine can do wonders alongside regular meditation. In fact, you can expect a heavy emphasis on mindfulness in any given yoga class.
Physically, yoga aims to improve muscle strength and flexibility—your breath guides you through each movement. The mind-and-body connection formed during class can leave you feeling more present and aware. Studies have shown how powerful yoga can be: this practice can help reduce stress, anxiety, and depression, and aid memory and concentration.
While there are dozens of yoga varieties (e.g., Vinyasa, restorative, Bikram, etc.), mindful yoga, as the name suggests, places notable emphasis on the mental aspect. It fuses meditation and the physical movements of yoga together. An instructor may ask questions during movements such as, “Is your breath fast or slow?” or “How present do you feel in this moment?” Such guidance is meant to bring constant awareness to the mind and the body.
For those looking for something a bit more physical, Pilates is a great option. A typical Pilates class might include planks, ab exercises, and various micromovements using the arms and legs that aim to tone your body and correct your posture. It’s often linked to yoga for this very reason: many Pilates’ exercises require you to be aware of every movement you’re making.
Breath and fluidity are also some of Pilates’s main elements. Deep-breathing exercises are incorporated into a typical class, with a heavy emphasis placed on the harmonization between the breath and a specific movement. This coordination leads to flow—a facet of the practice that refers to the mind and body working together throughout the various exercises.
Whether you go to a Pilates class for something more physically demanding or a mindful yoga class that requires a higher level of mental cognizance, both activities are centered on your mind and body working together to achieve mental acuity. It’s a powerful connection worth strengthening in the year ahead.